How do you properly name a piece of music if it was transcribed by someone? Specifically I'm looking at a J. S. Bach Gigue, from Partita No. 3 in E major BWV 1006, originally written for a solo violin. It was transcribed for a solo piano by Sergei Rachmaninoff. I'm trying to name it and include both the composer and transcriber. It's actually for my music resume, which includes repertoire I've recently completed, so I'd like it to be correct and official. Here's an example of the format I've been using for the pieces:

Sonata I in E-flat Major. Op. 1 No. 1: Allegro Moderato.

John Field

I've been writing the name of the piece, the movement, and the composer's name underneath in italics. None of the other pieces were transcriptions though, so I'm unsure of what to do.

So far in my research, I've seen the piece in question named "Bach-Rachmaninoff: Violin Partita No.3 in E major, Gigue," "Bach - Partita No 3 in E major, Rachmaninoff transcription," and "J.S.Bach (Arr.Rachmaninov) - Partita BWV 1006," but none of these seem quite right to me. Is there one standard practice for naming transcriptions, or is it up to the discretion of whoever writes it?

Please include sources or reasons for your answer! Thank you!

  • Keep in mind that there are several bibliographic/citation styles: Chicago, AMA, MLA, etc. Is there one you're sticking with elsewhere in the document, or elsewhere in your profession? If you're unsure, I would recommend Chicago style, which is the standard in music academia.
    – Richard
    Commented Aug 9, 2017 at 18:28
  • @Richard I didn't realize there were different citation styles for music! I've always used MLA for papers and such in school, so should I continue to use it?
    – Mary
    Commented Aug 9, 2017 at 20:01
  • If you're using MLA, you may as well continue to use it. (Though I haven't used it in years, so I'll let someone else give an answer for that one!)
    – Richard
    Commented Aug 9, 2017 at 20:02
  • @Richard So which style do most colleges prefer? And the professional world?
    – Mary
    Commented Aug 9, 2017 at 20:03
  • I don't know about most colleges, unfortunately. I don't know if there's a consensus, and it may vary depending on country/region. But in music academia, it's definitely Chicago style.
    – Richard
    Commented Aug 9, 2017 at 20:04

2 Answers 2


I would suggest (following your same general format):

"Gigue," Partita No. 3 in E major BWV 1006
J. S. Bach (arranged for solo piano by S. Rachmaninoff)

Typically, when a piece is adapted for another instrument, it is not merely transcribed, but also arranged. If it is just a straight transcription, I'm not sure it is worth secondary attribution --pure transcription is a mechanical process. An arrangement, on the other hand, is basically a derivative but new work of art, based closely on the old one, essentially a collaboration of sorts between the two composers. There is definitely considerable overlap between the two terms and how they are used, but in general, arrangement is more of a creative process than transcription.

Keep in mind, your overall goals are a) give credit where credit is due and b) allow someone else to accurately identify and find the same version of the piece. You may find this useful: Bibliographic Style Guidelines for Music (Donald Byrd).

  • So transcription means copying a piece exactly and arrangement means adding new parts? I wasn't aware of that, thanks. I suppose my Bach piece was definitely an arrangement then.
    – Mary
    Commented Aug 9, 2017 at 20:00
  • @Mary - It's always good to confirm! I looked into it, and it seems the distinction isn't as hard and fast as I've always thought. However, the info above is generally correct. I've added a link to a good explanation of which is which. Commented Aug 10, 2017 at 0:19

Taking into account my comment to OP, I've gone ahead and assumed the use of Chicago style. (Though even here, there's the question of where to put the date in the sources. I've gone with their default usages as shown in Chapter 14 of the 16th edition of The Chicago Manual of Style.)

The Chicago Manual of Style gives the following two examples of musical score citations:

Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus. Sonatas and Fantasies for the Piano. Prepared from the autographs and earliest printed sources by Nathan Broder. Rev. ed. Bryn Mawr, PA: Theodore Presser, 1960.

Schubert, Franz. “Das Wandern (Wandering),” Die schöne Müllerin (The Maid of the Mill). In First Vocal Album (for high voice). New York: G. Schirmer, 1895.

They don't, however, really clarify where to put the information for transcriber. In books, however, the translator goes after the editor and before the publication location:

Adorno, Theodor W., and Walter Benjamin. The Complete Correspondence, 1928–1940. Edited by Henri Lonitz. Translated by Nicholas Walker. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999.

Menchú, Rigoberta. Crossing Borders. Translated and edited by Ann Wright. New York: Verso, 1999.

Since there's no official example given in the CMOS, I think it's safe to assume that we would put the transcriber (or arranger) in the same position as a book translator.

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